Georgia’s Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to allow continued construction of two nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s embattled Plant Vogtle, which is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
Commission chair Stan Wise said the decision came down to the importance of fuel diversity and the long term benefits the projecct would have on Georgians.
Georgia utility regulators on Thursday conditioned their approval of the Vogtle nuclear project on no small caveat: that Congress approves roughly $800 million worth of tax credits.
As part of its decision allowing Georgia Power and its partners to pass more project costs onto ratepayers, the Public Service Commission unanimously approved language that would allow the five-member body to reconsider if federal lawmakers do not greenlight the tax credits.
“My motion to go forward is based on the assumption that these (tax credits) will, in fact, be extended,” the PSC stated in an approved provision authored by Commission member Tim Echols. “But, if they are not, or if other conditions change and assumptions upon which the Company’s (Vogtle construction monitoring report) are based are either proven or disproven, the Commission may reconsider the decision to go forward.”
U.S. senators began laying the groundwork for approving the tax credits on Wednesday afternoon, when the tax-writing Finance Committee introduced legislation that would effectively guarantee the $23 billion project the credits. Republican leaders, however, have not laid out a timeline for action.
Construction of the two reactors almost came to a standstill early this year following the bankruptcy filing by lead contractor Westinghouse Electric Company. Since inception, the project has suffered numerous delays, design changes and a lack of a detailed schedule, which according to staff appointed by regulators to assess the project’s costs and construction progress, could result in additional cost overruns.
In their recent, perhaps most aggressive report presented to the Georgia Public Service Commission early this month, staffers blamed Georgia Power for failing to manage the project and its contractor in a reasonable manner. Staffers argued ratepayers should not be held responsible for additional costs resulting from Georgia Power’s mismanagement of the project.